District debates changing length of school day

Local News

Changes could be on the way for a local school district as its board of directors considers changing the length of school days.

The State College Area School Board will meet Monday night to weight the advantages and disadvantages of extending elementary school hours and changing the start time for middle and high school students.

The school district wants to know what parents think about extending the elementary school day by 54 minutes and starting the middle and high school days later.

That means elementary students would begin their school day at 8:00 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.

Middle and high schoolers would start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:44 p.m. and 3:40 p.m., respectively.

“Currently, we begin picking up secondary students at 6:38 a.m.,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “This new proposal would result in students being picked up no later than 7:00 a.m.”

O’Donnell said updated research around sleep for adolescents is a driving factor. Now, there are a lot of moving parts, including how the update would affect transportation.

“We transport 7,000 students each day,” O’Donnell said. “To just change the order of how we bring students in is a massive undertaking.”

But one he fully supports.

“Right now, our elementary student days are six hours and six minutes. We actually haven’t found a shorter student day in Pennsylvania,” he said. “The challenges that we have managing and making sure that students are experienced in what they need is more difficult.”

Something fifth grade teacher Karen Styers experiences first hand.

“We want them to be ale to explore lots of possibilities,” she said. “Right now, in elementary, they’re just formulating who they can be, why they can be that person and how they can become that person.”

Monday night, the school board will vote to extend teacher contracts, which would help to make this possible transition easier.

The board will start discussing the time change proposal and are seeking public feedback before a vote in October or November. If the board does choose to approve the changes, they will take effect in the 2018 school year.

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